Sunday, May 23, 2010

More Helper Drama

So it had to happen... my former helper E called me a few days ago and bailed on me! She called me and was crying on the phone saying her present employer gave her a major guilt trip so she gave in and agreed to renew her contract with them. Although my initial reaction was anger, I contained myself and tried to get a better picture of what happened.

She told me her employer had been really good to her lately and even begged her to stay with them. I think she said they took her passport so that they can start the renewal process of her contact, but that didn't sound right. I wanted to give her the third degree and also guilt her into working for me instead, but I chose not to. Instead I remained calm and told her to just think it through a little better and know that this is a decision she will have to live with. I told her I will immediately start interviewing new candidates and she has until right before I sign with someone else to change her mind.

After the phone call I told my friend about it and she said with helpers it really comes down to money. She said she was probably offered an amount she couldn't refuse. So with this thought I texted her and asked her if that was the reason and how much she was being paid. She texted back saying she is still being paid the minimum wage plus food allowance because her employer isn't doing that well financially. So I texted her back with a higher offer but she never replied.

At this point, I am too frustrated with her to keep trying. I didn't get a new helper simply because I thought she was coming back. I am going through the hassle of hiring the mainlander and now the hassle of looking for a new permanent helper. E's own weakness and false promise has really been a blow.

This time its even more difficult to interview helpers because I need to find someone that can start right away. That means I need someone who has just finished their 2 year contact and was not terminated or chose to terminate the contract. This has drastically slimmed down my choices. I've interviewed only 2 and one already bailed because her husband "suddenly" wants her to move back to Manila. The second one is still thinking of who she wants to work with. I have hopefully 2 more to interview in the next few days. I need to get this sorted by the end of this week to get the timing of all paperwork of whoever I chose to be approved in time.

In the midst of all this stress and frustration, I try to tell myself I am still very fortunate to even have someone who is doing the cooking and cleaning for me. If I were still in Melbourne, I would be doing everything myself still. I am currently trying to be very patient and understanding of our present helper, but it gets trying.

A few more examples of where my frustration is coming from...

When our helper first came, she ate with me and the kids at the table. I don't have a problem with that. And Hubby wasn't in town, so no issue for me... until she began to chew. Just like a typical mainlander, she chews with her mouth wide open. You can hear her chewing from the bedroom and even with the exhaust fan from the kitchen blasting.

The reason why the exhaust fan is blowing is because she is a bit deaf. Since she can't really hear it anyways, she often forgets to turn it off.

I had to quickly buy an 8 kilo bag of rice recently because she eats 4 times the amount of rice in one sitting compared to the rest of us. What we use as a cereal bowl, she fills it up with rice.

I don't dare have her use the washing machine, so I do the washing and just have her hang it up to dry. One day I placed a whole load of washing in the machine without starting it just to wait for what was still hanging on the rack to dry. The next thing I knew my whole load of washing was hung on the rack. I asked the helper if she thought it was strange that all the clothes were dry when she took it out of the washing machine and she said she didn't think about it!

We recently bought a larger second-hand fridge to replace our existing one which made the kitchen door not adhere to the magnetic door stop behind it. And because our kitchen door has a mechanism on top of it that makes it shut whenever its opened, its a pain to get in and out of the kitchen. I bought 2 door stops to stuff under the door but because the mechanism is so strong, its struggle to keep the door open. I couldn't take it anymore so I asked the building people to remove the mechanism on top of the door. After it had been removed, the door stayed open which was great! After the maintenance guys left, the helper was hovering around the door so I asked her what she was looking it. She asked me if the magnetic door stop behind it was moved forward, that's why it was staying open. I told her it was because the mechanism on top of the door was removed. She looked up and was puzzled. She never noticed there was something on top of the door! Then she proceeded to stuff the door stops I bought under the door!

She has never heard of Sweet and Sour chicken, nor Mapo Tofu, nor chinese meatballs and a ton of other Chinese dishes anybody would know.

I can't take her anywhere with me to help me watch the kids because she can't understand the kids and the kids can't understand her. She won't be able to communicate with my friends nor their kids and also with my friends' helpers. Instead of her helping me keep an eye on the kids, I would be stressed out watching her watching my kids.

And one thing I have realized that matters the MOST is that I will not be able to trust her holding Poseidon when he arrives. I think that is the deal breaker.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Boy Wonder Turns 6!

How time flies. Last weekend we celebrated Boy Wonder's 6th birthday. Although it was a last minute rush job, we were able to secure Pizza Express and held a pizza making party for Boy Wonder and his friends.

Now our hands are clean, let's start making some pizza!

First we start with the pizza sauce.

Now where's the cheese?

We were amazed that out of 23 classmates, only 3 were not able to make it. It was a huge group, chaotic, many times out of control, but the most important thing is that everyone seemed to have fun.

Let's pop your creation into the oven.

Making sticker pizzas while we wait for the real ones to bake.

Look what I made!


It was difficult keeping track of all the parent's names, but at least there is face recognition now. And we were also touched that so many parents took the time out of their busy schedules to make it to the party.

Happy 6th Birthday Boy Wonder!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Price of Hired Help

I'm about to delve into a topic that is a bit controversial to those who have not grown up in Asia. It is a part of everyday life here to a large number of people. It can be a great privilege if you find someone wonderful, but a nightmare if you're unlucky. I think I'm somewhere in the middle.

Our temporary helper from the mainland arrived to start work for us over the weekend. We had to hire her because our helper E, which worked for us when we were living here before needs to wait for her present contract to end at the end of September before changing employers. With both kids going to school, no car, Hubby working late hours and me getting bigger by the day, I really needed the extra help around the house.

We already had someone helping me out part-time for the past 3 weeks. I needed the part-timer mainly to wait across the street at 3:30pm for Boy Wonder to be dropped off by the school bus. Nachos gets off school at 3:30pm as well, thus I couldn't be 2 places at the same time. And since we already got the part-timer everyday, I asked her to also do some odd things around the house like ironing and cleaning.

Our mainland helper was not suppose to start until late May, but since it is next to impossible to predict how long it takes for visas to be cleared, I had to get her once it was approved. They are only allowed to stay for 3 months. So in the meantime while both helpers are here, I've been asking the part-timer to teach the mainlander how to iron and take the bus to the market and back.

Although things may seem to be working well at the moment in just 5 days, it was definitely a rough weekend.

I took the kids to pick up our helper at a friend's house who introduced her to us last Saturday. I was told ahead of time by our friend that the helper turned out to be much older than she thought. The helper is 55. I thought as long as she wasn't slow and could deal with things around the house it should be fine.

After we got home I showed her around the flat and told her what chores she will have to do. When I showed her the sink which had a spoon and a fork in it, she simply grab it, rinsed it with water and was about to put it away! I rolled my eyeballs and told her although things may look clean, it doesn't mean it's clean until you have properly washed it. I had to teach her from scratch how to wash the dishes.

That evening she prepared a simple dinner of noodles which was good, so I was at least relieved that she can cook. Turns out she was the company cook at a bank.

The next day was a Sunday so we were all sleeping in. But at 6am I was rudely awoken by noises in the kitchen. Our helper was up and fiddling around in the kitchen. I told to PLEASE not do anything this early in the morning and start when we are awake. But a few minutes later I could hear her in the next room mopping. I quickly got up again and told her to stop and besides, she shouldn't be mopping when she hasn't even swept or vacuumed the floor!

After another hour or so the kids we up, so she thought it was her cue to start "cleaning" again. This time I heard her in the kids' bathroom and I couldn't get out of bed quickly enough. I caught her cleaning the WHOLE toilet with the toilet brush!!! AAAAAAHHHHH!!! I was almost screaming at her to stop and had to show her how to properly clean the toilet as well. And just to be safe, I didn't even bother letting her use one of those cleaning cloths. I told her to just use toilet paper and throw it after each section of the toilet. And I also had to tell her to make sure she washes her hands with soap afterwards.

Later in the day while I was in the kitchen I saw her use a damp rag to wipe off the kitchen counter top. I told her never do that again and that she had to use a squeezed dry sponge and wipe in a uniformed direction. I asked her if she knew why and she said so that there won't be marks? I had to explain to her that if she wiped randomly, she'll just be pushing all the crud back and forth. But if she wiped in one direction, she'll be sweeping all the crud into one area then be able to wipe it all off in one swoop. I told her the same concept applies to mopping. Then I showed her what she had done that morning with the mopping. Since she didn't sweep or vacuum, all the carpet fuzz and crud had caked all over the floor.

I also had to teach her about cutting meats and vegetables separately. She had no idea why she had to do that. I tried to tell her about cross contamination and in the end just told her she had no choice and to make sure she does it. I took out our color coded chopping mats with a cow, fish and carrot printed on each one and told her to follow it. I also said she had to wash the knife properly with washing-up liquid after cutting meats or fish before cutting vegetables.

In addition to all this drama, I also realize she is quite hard of hearing and can't see very well either. Her Mandarin isn't that good as well because she's from Fu Zhou where they speak the Fujian dialect. She can't read that well either because all the Chinese characters here are traditional Chinese while she reads simplified Chinese.

I'm going to bare with all her short comings because I don't want to risk changing her and having to deal with someone even worse. Hubby can't stand her already so its a good thing he's been so busy at work. Nachos don't seem to mind her but Boy Wonder doesn't want her to help him with anything. Its funny how people pick up vibes from total strangers.

At this point we're all really looking forward to Grandma coming here at the end of June. With her here she can help with Boy Wonder and Nachos. School will be over by then and Grandma can keep the kids occupied. Poseidon should be due in early July and the helper will just help me look after the baby and cook. I know Hubby will be rolling his eyeballs again with this, but since this will be our last baby, I want to make sure I eat well, rest well and make sure my body properly recuperates from this pregnancy. I know I won't be under house arrest for a whole month this time, but I'll make sure I make the most of it and utilize the helper as much as possible for as many weeks as I can after Poseidon arrives.

Since the helper can only stay for 3 months, she will be leaving at the beginning of August. At that point I should be back on my feet. Our part-timer has offered to come back whenever we need her again so that should be good until E comes to work for us full-time at the end of September.